The emergence of the oil welfare state: The case of Kuwait
- Cite this article as:
- Khalaf, S. & Hammoud, H. Dialect Anthropol (1987) 12: 343. doi:10.1007/BF00252116
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This essay provided an analytical account of the emergence and development of social welfare in the newly emerging oil-rich state of Kuwait, by delineating the particular historical conditions and socio-economic transformations which were responsible for giving this welfare state its particular structure.
We relied on specific theoretical guidelines and concepts derived from the much honored “holistic” tradition in anthropology and political economy, as well as on formulations developed by scholars coming from the new tradition in the “development approach” in welfare studies.
The analytical elucidation presented here indicates that a multiplicity of both internal and external factors and/or determinants have simultaneously influenced the development of the oil welfare state in Kuwait. The origins, nature, timing and interplay of all these factors appear to be specific and unique to the experience of Gulf societies, and have given rise to particular socio-political configurations and psychological effects. Thus the new soical welfare conditions which have emerged in modern Kuwait are different in many significant ways from those experienced in both the advanced industrial capitalist societies and Third World countries. Moreover, the economic, social, cultural and historical specificities of the oil-rich societies have made the overall development and the functions of the welfare state different from those found to be recurrent in advanced capitalist societies.
It appears that, on one hand, the new oil welfare state has succeeded in modernizing life and bettering the human condition of its small population. Yet, on the other hand, this form of extensive oil-welfarism has in itself generated certain conditions which appear to have some-what weakened the capacities of these societies to achieve genuine development. In other words, it has failed to stimulate the development of productive social forces and other supportive infrastructural conditions from within society itself. A thorough analysis of these and other consequences which have become well embedded in the fabric of Kuwaiti society and culture requires and entirely separate paper.